Sludge metal was born out of hardcore punk bands discovering Black Sabbath. The greatest sludge albums combine all the raw aggression and rage of hardcore with the slow tension and power of doom metal. Since its beginnings in late 80s, the genre has grown into punk’s willingness to experiment and created some of the most forward thinking metal albums of all time from the likes of Mastodon, Neurosis, and Isis. In other words, though sludge combines fairly simple ingredients, the results are almost always sophisticated.
We’ve covered a fair bit of ground with our Starter Kit series, where we select a handful of key records that highlight a niche musical style or penetrate the prolific status of a staple genre. Unfortunately, this format doesn’t lend itself to covering proto-genres—microcosms of musical history comprised of a specific set of albums released in a fixed period of time. But these movements are crucial to the evolution of our favorite genres, particularly when it comes to the trajectory of sludge metal. What’s become a multifaceted and often refined style was once a disparate lineage of bands from different genres who all applied the “sludge factor” in different measures. While you won’t find a dedicated section for proto-sludge at your preferred music store, the following albums an artists laid the framework for the modern sludge landscape. So whether your sludge purveyors of choice come from the atmospheric, blackened or progressive sects of he genre, they’re all indebted to the groundbreaking statements these albums made.
Being a child of Scotland, one grows up to love the rolling countryside, endless hills and mountain tops and inevitably, the inclement weather. If you’re a city person, this might end up inspiring the kind of dark, abrasive music of Dark Habits or Frontierer; all angles and sharp corners. Take a look past the grey metropolitan areas and there is beauty in the fog surrounding our Lochs and landscapes. Saor have spent the better part of the last five years channeling this into some of the most melancholic black metal around. Not afraid to use traditional instrumentation and styles, Saor’s latest offering Guardians blends the peaty smoke of the bogs with shimmering, incandescent strings and pipes. It’s one that Heavy Blog goers might have missed last year but this needs to change.
For all the ubiquity it enjoys today, our current, ‘mainstream’ iteration of progressive metal was hardly all that visible before the turn of the last decade outside of a few relatively tight internet circles. The community around it remained constrained to a few forums, as current ringleaders such as Misha Mansoor and Acle Kahney quietly uploaded bedroom recordings to relatively small audiences.
In case you were somehow unaware, there are a few of us here at Heavy Blog who enjoy some good science fiction. Especially when it pertains to metal, which praise be to our space-based overlords is becoming a staple theme particularly within the modern black and death metal scenes. In this regard, last year presented a veritable smorgasbord of great albums. Bands like Vektor, Khonsu, Mithras, and Wormed created vast sonic landscapes which fans of all things extreme and heavy could giddily bang their heads to while simultaneously scratching their collective sci-fi itch. It was a glorious moment for metal geekdom. Thankfully, the era of the sci-fi metal epic continues in 2017. Exhibit A: Progenie Terrestre Pura and their latest record, oltreLuna.